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Exhibition of Kazimierz Alchimowicz’s painting “The funeral of Gediminas”

Event date: 2023 y.October1010 d. - 2024 y.January0114 d. All events
Valdovų rūmai
This exhibition presenting the painting by Kazimierz Alchimowicz The Funeral of Gediminas symbolically brings to a close the 700th anniversary of Vilnius programme. It was none other than Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas who was the first to herald the name of Vilnius in 1323. As the cycle of events dedicated to the history of Vilnius comes to an end, the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania invites visitors to honour a ruler whose character inspires creators to this day. 
Heralder of Vilnius to Europe – Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas
Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas (1316–1341) was one of the most famous rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the Middle Ages – the founder of the famous Lithuanian Gediminid dynasty, which ruled not just the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 14th–16th centuries, but also had monarchs in the Kingdom of Poland, Bohemia, Hungary and Croatia. Gediminas earned renown not only as a military commander, but also as a prudent ruler and diplomat. The grand duke sent letters to the pope and self-governing Germanic cities, inviting merchants, craftspeople and monks to settle in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was in one of these letters, written in 1323, that Vilnius was first mentioned as the main residence of the ruler. For this reason, Gediminas is often associated with the beginnings of Vilnius as both a city and the capital.
The author of a monumental painting and participant in the 1863–1864 Uprising drew strength from Lithuania’s history
From October 10, 2023, visitors taking Tour Route II at the museum can see the monumental canvas The Funeral of Gediminas, created by artist Kazimierz Alchimowicz, on display in the Reconstructed Interiors Exposition. The painting of truly impressive dimensions, and weighing 150 kg, has kindly been loaned to Lithuania on the occasion of Vilnius’ anniversary year by the National Museum of Krakow. Alchimowicz’s The Funeral of Gediminas has been moved from its permanent display space to the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania.
The author of the painting was born in 1840 in Dembrowo (Dziembrów, present-day Belarus) to the family of nobles Dominik and Karolina Alchimowicz. Kazimierz spent his childhood and youth in Vilnius. The future artist’s subsequent career was interrupted by the 1863–1864 Uprising in which Alchimowicz, along with a significant number of the nobility and representatives of the intelligentsia of the time, stood up against Russia’s occupation and repressions. After the uprising was supressed, Alchimowicz was deported into the depths of imperial Russia – this was where he began to draw his first works depicting religious and daily life themes. After almost six years in exile, Alchimowicz left for Warsaw where he pursued his art studies in the studio of Wojciech Gerson, one of the most prominent artists of his day, before continuing his studies at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts and then heading several art studios in France.
His monumental canvas The Funeral of Gediminas, personally gifted to the National Museum of Krakow that was just opening at the time, is frequently considered as one of Alchimowicz’s most mature works. In 1888 the painting was awarded a first prize in Saint Petersburg, while a year later it received a bronze medal in Paris. The painter’s work was published in the interwar Lithuanian press as well.
The painting contains numerous details of interest, historical figures and even the Trakai Castle
The painting depicts Gediminas’ funeral procession, probably making its way from the Veliuona surroundings via Trakai to Vilnius. The ruler’s death remains shrouded in mystery to this day, however the prevailing belief is that the grand duke died in 1341 during a clash against the Teutonic Order not far from Veliuona. The Lithuanian warriors seen marching in a procession accompanied by armour-clad Teutonic knights – their captives – suggest this is the return from the battle field. Two musicians and a krivis [pagan priest] are at the fore of the procession, heralding the death of the ruler. They are followed by weeping women in mourning and Lithuanian warriors armed with spears. The priest Lizdeika is shown behind a warrior blowing a horn, while behind him we see the deceased Grand Duke Gediminas being carried. The proximity of the priest Lizdeika to the ruler in the procession indicates that the Lithuanian state was still a pagan one.
Gediminas did make several attempts at baptism: he wrote letters to the pope declaring his will to join the family of Christian rulers, nonetheless, Lithuania only became a Christian state under the rule of Gediminas’ grandsons Jogaila and Vytautas. In the painting, Gediminas’ body is most likely accompanied by his sons: on the left we see Kęstutis, and on the right is Algirdas bearing a banner with the Gediminid columns. It is likely that both heirs to the throne were painted based on imaginary portraits of the future rulers that appeared in the Italian-born chronicler’s Alexander Guagnini’s work Sarmatiae Europeae descriptio (A Description of Sarmatian Europe, 1578).
Mystery surrounds Gediminas’ death
The actual place of Gediminas’ burial has not been discovered to this day. According to a 14th-century author, the deceased grand duke may have been cremated in a wooden cage made, most probably, of pine or fir logs.
Other legends claim that the ruler could have been buried in the territory of present-day Kalnų Park in Vilnius, on Gediminas’ Grave Hill. In the distance of the painting we see Trakai Castle, thus Vilnius, the grand duke’s main residence and, most likely, the ruler’s place of eternal rest, is not far away...
In this exhibition, in addition to Alchimowicz’s canvas The Funeral of Gediminas, visitors can also see copies of portraits of the descendants of the dynasty’s founder Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas – namely, his grandsons Jogaila and Vytautas, painted by anonymous 17th-century artists.
Exhibition patrons:
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania GABRIELIUS LANDSBERGIS
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland ZBIGNIEW RAU
Minister of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania SIMONAS KAIRYS
Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland Prof. PIOTR GLIŃSKI
National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania (Vilnius, Lithuania)
National Museum of Krakow (Poland)
Adam Mickiewicz Institute (Warsaw, Poland)
Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in Poland
Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Lithuania
Polish Institute in Vilnius
Exhibit owned by
National Museum in Krakow (Poland)
Exhibition curator
Gabija Tubelevičiūtė 
Exhibition coordinators 
Piotr Nowak, Marijus Uzorka
Draudimo bendrovė BTA. Vienna Insurance Group
Media sponsors
LRT, Lietuvos rytas, Lrytas.lt, JC Decaux, Legendos
Published:: 2023-10-04 11:32 Modified: 2023-10-11 14:20
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